Well, they counted the homeless population again so they could justify spending more money trying to fix a problem that just seems to get bigger as more tax money is poured into “programs.”

The politicians in Sacramento thought: “Oh, we’ll just send some more money – there the problem is fixed.”

Noozhawk and print media recently reported that “The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized staff to apply for $6 million in state funding to ‘resolve’ encampments near waterways including riverbeds, creeks and beaches.”

But there doesn’t appear to be any funding included in the grant for cleaning up camp sites, just to establish or continue existing “programs.”

Here’s the breakdown of what the statewide $300 million in homeless grants are to be used for; on page 7 of the document https://www.bcsh.ca.gov/calich/documents/erf_2r_nofa.pdf is a list of “eligible uses.” They include:

“Rapid rehousing, including housing identification services, rental subsidies, security deposits, incentives to landlords, and holding fees, housing search assistance, case management, and facilitate access to other community-based services.

“Operating subsidies in new and existing affordable or supportive housing units, emergency shelters, and navigation centers. Operating subsidies may include operating reserves.

“Street outreach to assist eligible persons to access crisis services, interim housing options, and permanent housing and services.

“Systems support for activities that improve, strengthen, augment, complement, and/or are necessary to create regional partnerships and a homeless services and housing delivery system that resolves persons’ experiences of unsheltered homelessness.

“Delivery of permanent housing and innovative housing solutions, such as unit conversions that are well suited for eligible persons.

“Prevention and shelter diversion to permanent housing, including flexible forms of financial assistance, problem solving assistance, and other services to prevent people that have been placed into permanent housing from losing their housing and falling back into unsheltered homelessness.

“Interim sheltering, limited to newly developed clinically enhanced congregate shelters, new or existing non congregate shelters, and operations of existing navigation centers and shelters based on demonstrated need that are well suited for eligible persons.Improvements to existing emergency shelters to lower barriers, increase privacy, better address the needs of eligible persons, and improve outcomes and exits to permanent housing.”

In addition, “5% of grant finds may be applied to administrative costs.” 

The Notice of Funding Availability states: “Up to 50 percent of the $300 million authorized for ERF-2 shall be prioritized for Local Jurisdictions with proposals that address encampments on state rights-of-way and that meet priority criteria established by Cal ICH in consultation with the Department of Transportation.”

You’ll note that this doesn’t say “encampments near waterways including riverbeds, creeks and beaches;” it refers to roads, public sidewalks, freeways, and rail routes.

But how far will this grant, or even larger grants go to solving the problem? There have been several years of counting, street level counseling, and meetings of regional partnership groups and homeless service committees to discuss “solutions”; none have been able to get the job done.

In fact, you could say the more meetings that occur and the more tax money that is pumped into “programs” and rehousing, the bigger the problem has gotten.

A few years ago, the city of Lompoc spent more than $500,000 in General Fund money to “clean up the riverbed;” several tons of waste were removed.

The city also closed River Park to the public and established a temporary homeless encampment, and together with county agencies provided hot meals, showers, counseling, health and welfare services, and transitional housing.

Within a week many of the camps had returned, and many of the homeless simply returned to the streets and riverbank where there were no rules. Today, there are as many “unhoused” people as there were before this effort took place.

When the problem persisted, a citizen group voluntarily took on the task; hopefully, there are after-action notes and people around who served in this effort so the county can learn what worked and what did not.

Maybe the Board of Supervisors should help clarify for the public what the focus of this grant program is; money is still needed to clean up the areas mentioned in the press report, but it doesn’t look like it’s coming from this grant.

Meanwhile, the homeless population will continue to grow, groups will meet and wring their hands trying to figure out what to do, and more of your tax money will be spent to “solve the problem.”